Hard work, determination, and a little helping of pride really do work wonders. After the first session on Les Chemins de Katmandou, where she barely managed the crux move 1 in 5 tries, Caroline topped out on her ascent of the entire route early last week, 4th ascent and 1st female ascent (as far as I know), a fine effort indeed.
Caro had a play on the pitch and managed to figure out a new method for the crux; normally taking a 2-finger pocket as a mono would make things trickier, but in this particular case, the inverse seemed to apply for Caro. Content with making one of her crux slaps static, we all headed down to the car and campsite, grabbed some of the local speciality “Aligot”, and went to bed, ready for yet another early start and an 8b for breakfast.
6am feels especially early after a shitty night’s sleep, but at least in France you are rewarded for such an unhealthy hour with warm, soft, freshly baked bread! Conditions on the rock felt horrible and I struggled to second the first pitch. Caroline had just dispatched it on her 1st try of the day, complete with screams, wild slaps, and falls without falling. Having now experienced the conditions for myself, I really understood why!
Move after move, I was constantly amazed at how well she was dealing with the incredibly reachy and powerful climbing. This pitch is her anti style, but she compensated for the long reaches by working her feet up very high, and on the few occasions where even this failed to provide enough, solved the problem with an all out jump!
She arrived at the mid-way rest before the crux and prepared for the upcoming intensity. After a few moments she signalled to be ready and set off, fumbled her feet, missed the next hold and was off. I joked with her not to worry as this move was one in every two, she tried her best to smile and joined me back in the belay.
One in two was right, as next try she cruised this move to arrive at the end of the crux section. A long move with high feet from a one pad under-cling mono brought her to the intermediate edge. After a small adjustment of the feet, all that remained was a 5cm bump (although at full stretch) to a good 3 finger pocket, and probable victory. She paused a little too long, and fell with her fingers in the hold – merde!!!
Caro set off, and from my perspective looked to cruise the route, moving fluidly, really flowing through the hard moves. From her perspective, things were a little different... She admitted feeling tired and weak, the worst of her 3 tries of the day. However, she knew this was to be her last try, her one and only chance to finish this journey and she needed to make it count. She told herself the route was the final of just another comp, and whilst ultimately not important in the wider scheme of the world, it was of the highest importance in the “there and now” and she needed to find a way to make it work, to dig deep into the reserve tank and find a little magic. The huge smile across her face as I joined her at the top told me just how happy she was with the result.